Fun fact: I have ten years of experience working with companies on their compensation. Take it from me, that is deep experience. I’ve seen the gamut in terms of how companies handle recruiting and the offer process. I’ve also seen the gamut on negotiations, and how different tactics land.
So, today I’m boiling it down – here are five tips for negotiating your next job with confidence.
Know who and what you’re dealing with
If you’re applying to a well-established, medium size company or bigger, chances are they have a system. This includes intelligence on what the market pays for your position, and probably an established guideline for salary, bonus opportunity, other incentives, vacation, allowances, etc.
Typically these systems come with a fair amount of internal pressure to stay within bounds – to manage costs, free up management and maintain internal equity.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for the moon (more on that below), just know that the company has a system and that getting around it or getting creative is generally pretty rare. This does mean that your mission is to get the best offer you can, working within their system.
If you’re joining a small company or start up, different rules may apply and creativity possibly encouraged. If you’re serious about the job and growing with the company, definitely go after equity.
Nail your ask – the sooner the better
If you’ve ever had a call from a recruiter, you know that they’re keen to find out what you’re making now. Two reasons: to gauge your suitability for their position, and to test whether you’ll fit within the company’s compensation system.
Don’t be shy about not answering that question if you don’t want to. You can say you’d prefer to put it off until later, or, you can tell them what you would like to be making – in other words, what you would move for.
Knowing the number you would move for is important. Recognizing a lot of factors go into making a career move, compensation looms large. So before you enter your first conversation with a recruiter or potential manager, take a few minutes to consider the salary, incentive, pension, benefits, vacation and other terms you would like (the aspiration) and what you would settle for (and still sleep at night). I created a quick cheat sheet to help you get clear on this ahead of time – you can grab it HERE.
Know where you stand
First, if you’re in a negotiation, they want you. Recruiting is a costly process – it takes time and most companies want roles filled yesterday. So if a company tells you they’d like to move forward with an offer, then you can be confident that they are invested in making it work with you, within reason (and within their system).
This is why I encourage you to ask for what you want. Do your homework, know your worth, and don’t be shy about coming in with all of your asks.
Negotiate with grace
First, manners. When you get an offer, say thank you. You are negotiating with another human and the relationship matters. That human is motivated to end their search with you. And they can unlock what’s possible within their system if they want to.
A lot of companies will talk through the details of the offer with you, then put it in writing. This can save them time by only getting senior management sign-off once, versus multiple times. Caution: this approach can make you feel like receiving the offer in writing is the final step. It doesn’t have to be.
So, know that the first conversation is an opportunity for you to negotiate, but not the only opportunity.
When an offer is presented, don’t agree to any aspect of it in real time. Even if you feel like Santa just flew by and left you a Victorian dollhouse full of period furnishings (or, you know, insert your childhood dream here) – take a breath, say an honest thank you and that you’d like to sleep on it. Preferably several sleeps.
If you’re still not sure you can buy yourself more time. Maybe you would benefit from meeting a few more people in the company – a peer or the head of the department. Leave it open until you’re ready to close it.
Look at the whole picture
Money is important and so is your life. When negotiating, consider the non monetary terms too – work location (commute time), hours, flexibility, seasonality, vacation, perks, leadership, opportunity, learning and development, colleagues, social, company culture. You won’t be able to negotiate on all of these, but you may on some.
There is no one size fits all for negotiating your next job, but here’s one tip that stands no matter what: be true to yourself. Career moves are a big deal, many of us will only make a handful or two in our lives. So make sure it’s the right role, know what you want, and go after it.
If you didn’t already grab it, I made a super simple cheat sheet for nailing your ask so you are clear on what you want ahead of time – you can get it HERE.